This past camping season was quite an ordinary Camp HASC summer, similar to summers of the past. But an “ordinary” summer in Camp HASC is extraordinary!
As usual, over 300 campers with a wide variety of intellectual and physical disabilities had the greatest summer of their lives. They enjoyed the social experience of making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. They enjoyed the engaging recreation program offered in Camp HASC, which includes adaptive swimming in HASC’s wheelchair-accessible, heated indoor pools, art, music, sports, Torah learning, cooking, gardening, adaptive bike riding, game room, calisthenics, indoor playground, and scores of creatively themed night activity events. They worked hard with their teachers in the acclaimed HASC summer academics program, on improving their academic skills and meeting their personal goals. They worked steadily with their therapists towards their physical, occupational, and speech therapy goals in HASC’s unique summer therapy department.
As usual, quite a number of campers reached major milestone achievements this summer, including learning to feed themselves, taking their first unassisted steps, learning to swim, writing their names, and making a siyum on a masechta of mishnayos.
As usual, over 400 yeshiva- and college-age staff members’ lives were transformed as they lovingly cared for others in a way that they had never before experienced. These young men and women have returned to their yeshivos, programs, and communities with new perspectives on life. They have learned to always focus on another person’s strengths, to reject labels which limit others, to appreciate all that we are fortunate to have, and to realize that we are most fortunate to have the ability to give and care for others.
As usual, hundreds of parents and caretakers got well-deserved respite and the time to relax and reinvigorate. Family members had the opportunity to give attention to others, to go on trips or vacations, or just recharge in a way that may not have been possible during the year.
As usual, KlalYisrael united in Camp HASC this summer! The events of this past summer touched the hearts of so many, showing that there is so much ahavasYisrael and goodwill inside us all, just waiting for opportunities to shine. Some examples of the barrier-breaking ahavaschinam that was experienced in Camp HASC this summer included:
• The connection to our brothers and sisters in EretzYisrael and support of our brave chayalim. “From Camp HASC with love to the IDF” was a beautiful video produced by HASC’s talented technology team, sending love and tefillos across the ocean to our family and friends in EretzYisrael.
• HASC Experience Day and Visiting Days, when over 1,000 families from all walks of life and from communities around the country gathered to visit their family members and friends, to celebrate their children’s accomplishments together, and to support one another. What special displays of ahavasYisrael! Affiliations with a particular movement, community, or label will not get in the way of Jews uniting to support their loved ones and to support the efforts to care for people with special needs.
• Visits by many rabbanim and community leaders from across the Jewish world. HASC was honored to host the Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva, Rav Matisyahu Salomon, as well as Rebbetzin Solomon, for a truly memorable visit. It was so very special to see the mashgiach and the rebbetzin share berachos with the campers and staff members, and to hear them express their appreciation for the holy work that takes place in HASC. They also had the special opportunity to hear from Rav Moshe Weinberger, marad’asra of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere and mashgiachruchani at Yeshiva University, as well as many other notable speakers and personalities.
• The HASC team was fortunate to celebrate five special and emotional bar and batmitzvahs of campers with their families. For so many campers and families, Camp HASC is the place where they feel completely comfortable to be themselves and express themselves, and it is the perfect place to celebrate these special occasions.
• Every “ordinary” day in Camp HASC is a truly special achdus experience, as campers, staff, and families from so many communities and backgrounds work together in harmony and grow to appreciate one another. Counselors knew that they had signed up to work with individuals with special needs, and camper families knew that they had signed their children up to have an enjoyable summer—but they all emerged with so much more.
And, as usual, even before the summer of 2014 came to an end, planning for the summer of 2015 had already begun. Plans to continue improving HASC’s care and programming are well under way.
All in all, it was an “ordinary” yet absolutely extraordinary summer at Camp HASC.